By Jon R Anderson
Look at the list below and circle any of the words that describe what you believe it takes to have a good marriage. If you don’t have something to write with just count up the words you would agree with. If you have something to write with, but don’t have this printed out, please don’t mark on your device screen.
Compassionate Hopeful Caring Honest Trustworthy Thoughtful Loving Faithful Loyal Kind Teamwork Generous Peaceful Friendly Motivated Patient Humble Intentional Transparent Positive Sexually fulfilling Tender Disciplined Encouraging Warmth Affectionate Committed Accepting Pleasing Good Communication Forgiving Attractive Honoring Unselfish Responsible Attentive Fun Sensitive Serving Gentle Understanding Intimate
Now ask yourself this question: “How many of those things have you done well for your spouse today?”
Personally, I believe that all of these descriptors, and many more, are what we as spouses should be striving to be. On the other hand, I don’t think a day has gone by in my 30 plus years of marriage, when I have lived up to half of the things on that list. On a good day, I might live up to five of them, but not for the entire day. The best people I know don’t live up to them. So why would I expect my spouse to live up to them? If I believe I need all of those things, or even most of them, from my spouse, then I am setting them up for failure and myself for great disappointment. Yet, one of the most common things I hear from someone considering divorce is, “He/She just doesn’t meet my needs”.
Here’s the thing: Your spouse is never going to meet your “needs”. Neither will any and everyone else. Do you meet all of your spouse’s needs? Of course not! So why would you expect them to meet yours?
Furthermore, are these really needs? Will I die if they are not all fulfilled? Maybe we should start talking about these things with different terminology… desires, wants, ingredients that make life sweeter? The fact that our culture has labeled these relational assets as needs has really caused a lot of harm to our relationships.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I believe that we should all be striving to get better and better at providing these things. And, the more a relationship is devoid of them, the more trying that relationship will be. But we have to quit telling ourselves that we somehow deserve or need them all consistently and from one person. What if, instead, we considered them as treats? What if, when we experienced a moment that our spouse was especially caring, thoughtful, affectionate, or kind… what if we thought of that as a bonus instead of the fulfillment of a requirement? Imagine how our relationships would change if we showed gratitude when it happens instead of disapproval when it doesn’t? Not only would we have a lighter outlook, our spouse would enjoy doing them more because it has transformed from an obligation to a gift.
If you know of a marriage that is struggling, or even failing, get them to the next Love Reboot! Click on "courses" above for more information.